Courtney Noelle is a prime example to not give up on your dreams. The Pittsburgh native and first lady of Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang encountered a few setbacks as she was signed to the record label Brookland and had a project completed, but the deal fell through. After feeling a bit defeated, Noelle took a hiatus and tried college out for size before giving music one more try, heading back to Pittsburgh to work on new music where she landed a feature spot on Wiz Khalifa’s “Bankroll” after crossing paths with the rapper in a Pittsburg studio. The collab prompted listeners to want to hear more material, and she eventually released her first mixtape Wishing On A Star, which led her to be signed to Taylor Gang Records.
This March, Noelle released her project Love On the Run, which she says is inspired by her growth as a young woman in relationships. The Taylor Gang first lady chatted with us about the project, what it's like being the label's only female, her love of R&B and weed, advice from Wiz Khalifa and more.
As the only girl, how’s the chemistry with the other male Taylor Gang members?
It’s great! I actually have known a lot of them for a really long time. The majority of us are from Pittsburgh so it’s like working with your family, your brothers. They treat me like their little sister. It’s really fun.
Do they ever ask for the female perception on songs or in their personal relationships?
Oh yeah, I have to hear them talk about their B.S. all the time (laughs). They ask me for girl advice, they ask me for groupie advice, they ask me for everything you can think of. I’ve grown up around my brother my whole life, so I’m used to it.
Being from Pittsburgh, what’s the R&B music scene like?
Pittsburgh is really blue collar. They kinda have this “go to school, graduate from school, and go to work” type of mentality. I think just now the music scene is picking up where people are really going for their dreams, and we have a lot of fashion stylists and business owners who are trying to get into the beauty and entertainment industry. We really don’t have a big R&B music scene, but when everything started picking up with Wiz [Khalifa], he kinda opened those doors for people to create music and to believe that someone from here, someone from such a small town, which isn’t really known for music, was able to break into that industry.
You started off as a songwriter in Baltimore writing for other groups. What’s your songwriting technique?
I don’t really have a specific one, it just comes from anywhere; sometimes I just write in the shower, sometimes I write on the airplane, and sometimes I can’t do it until I actually get into the speaker, get into the beat with a loud speaker. But it’s normally after I’ve gone through something cause I always write from personal experience. Usually I can’t write at all when I’m going through it, but after I get through it, I like to start looking for beats, going through my emails, going through my iTunes and put all those feelings on a track; that’s where I get peace and satisfaction from.
Being that you’re in Wiz’s crew and he’s a weed connoisseur, are you an avid smoker?
Yes, I am, I am a weed enthusiast! I am a big advocate of weed because it helped me with my anxiety about 4 years ago, after I left my first label. I was kinda down and my grandma was sick; she was diagnosed with cancer, so I went back to the drawing board and went back to work. I developed anxiety and they tried to prescribe me all these prescriptions and nothing worked. And I began to smoke marijuana on a regular basis and I haven’t been on any prescription medicine for my anxiety for about four or five years now. So definitely, I am a big enthusiast for marijuana, not for just the recreational reasons that people already assume because of who I’m associated with, but for my own personal reasons. I definitely think that when used for medicinal purposes, it can help people.
I know you’re an R&B fan through and through. What’s your favorite era of R&B, and why?
I would have to say the 90s, because I was born in ‘87, my mom had me when she was 16, so she always played whatever was current as a young mom, so I heard all the new music, and I was really, really into Boyz II Men, En Vogue, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, Brownstone, I could go on and on and on. I don’t think we’ve had an era as great as that for R&B music, and Jodeci as well, I’m a huge fan. I don’t think there has been an era that had that great R&B scene, definitely my favorite, I think everybody would agree with that (laughs).
Who are some of your musical influences?
When I was really, really young I listened to anything. When I got a little older, my grandma left me a ton of vinyl records and a record player and I would listen to Billie Holiday and Rose Royce and Dionne Warwick, and they kinda inspired my writing and my R&B type of sound, and as I got older, Beyonce was coming up and Mariah Carey was obviously still around and Mary J. [Blige], someone who’s played a big role in my love of music and hip-hop. Sade, she was definitely a big influence, and Aaliyah. There was definitely a lot of different artists who influence my music.
How would you describe the concept and sound of your latest mixtape, Love On the Run?
When I went into it, I didn’t have a concept, but I knew I really wanted it to be relationship-oriented because I was maturing and I had been through a lot and I wanted to tell that story of all the ins and outs of being a young woman in a relationship and all the emotions you go through. I tried not to be so traditional R&B and preach and yell all in the songs, and just tell my story from my point of view, from my personality. So the first song I recorded for my mixtape was “Without You,” featuring Juicy J. I went to the studio, I picked the most interest beat I could find and just explained how I was feeling at the time. I fell in love with that song, I listened to it like seven times a day. And I said you know what? This is the sound I wanna go with. I wanna be honest, I wanna stick to my love of hip-hop by incorporating those type of beats, those type of sounds. And I wanna be relaxed and free and open and not think so much just kinda tell my story. I wanted it to be a love story from start to finish, something you can listen to from beginning to end. I was choosing such hip-hop-based beats cause I wanted it to be for everyone. It’s for the females, but if you put that CD on in the car with your boyfriend, he’s not gonna be mad (laughs).
Are there any juicy, deep stories behind any of songs from Love On The Run?
Probably two, my single “Fooled,” which is out now on iTunes, is based on a personal relationship that played a pretty significant role in my life growing up as a woman. “Fooled” is a very personal story for me [in that it's a] relationship that I invested my time and trust into someone; I was very young and I thought I knew this person, and as time went on, they decided to show me some other colors that I didn’t really like and I felt like I was tricked. I felt like I didn’t have a choice in the matter of being lied to or being deceived so that song is very personal to me as well as a song called “Recollect,” which is about a past relation that just went sour, and it just kinda explains my feelings towards that person now.
What’s the best advice someone in the industry has given to you?
Probably from Wiz, and he instilled in us to “be who you are.” Don’t be afraid to be completely yourself through your music or whatever it may be, and have fun. People will judge you regardless, you can have the best song in the world and there will be people who completely hate it. And there are gonna be times when you’ll want to give up, there will be people that’ll want you to change, want you to be something different than who you are, but as long as you stay true to yourself, and don’t let those outside influences change you, and as long as you’re happy, it’ll all be worth it. I often ask him [Wiz] as a friend, “is everything worth the time away from your family, the things you have to go through, do you think it’s worth it?” And he always tells me, “it’s absolutely worth it, I’m happy, I’m myself, and I get to enjoy myself and stay true to me and my friends and my family,” so that’s some of the best advice I’ve gotten.
What’s next for you?
We decided to turn Love On The Run the mixtape into an EP. I didn’t feel comfortable just moving on to the next project because Love On The Run got such good reviews, I felt like there's much more story to tell, and I feel like there’s a lot more borough it can reach. We decided to keep the fan favorites and add some new stuff to it and release it this summer as an EP. Also, this summer I’ll be on the “Under the Influence” tour with Wiz and Jeezy, Tyga, Ty Dolla $ign, Iamsu!, Sage the Gemini and Mack Wilds, so I have a lot coming up this summer.
Follow Courtney @CNBBRAND